Business

Dancing on ABS-CBN’s grave: Rappler celebrates after killing CNTV deal which management, employees were banking on as lifeline

It was a simple business decision by a cash-starved company to keep itself afloat and save long-time employees from going jobless.

But ABS-CBN Broadcasting was forced to scuttle what could’ve been a life-saving deal after its airing of a Chinese language newscast was politicized by Rappler, which is reportedly threatened by the Lopez-owned network’s digital pivot.

A Babbler said ABS-CBN was approached by Horizon of the Sun Communications Inc. to air Chinatown News TV (CNTV) on ABS-CBN News Channel (ANC) because the Filipino-Chinese firm wanted to expand its reach.

ABS-CBN, for its part, gamely took on the offer since it desperately needed cash to continue operations after its failed franchise renewal bid.

“It was the only piece of good news after months of bad luck since ABS-CBN’s franchise renewal was rejected. CNTV was projected to bring a big chunk of ad money from Chinese firms and ABS-CBN would get half as part of the deal,” the Babbler said.

A blocktime deal was reached for CNTV, which was supposed to air from 9:30 p.m. to 10 p.m. starting April 12.

However, the newscast was axed after three nights due to what ABS-CBN sources claimed was a combination of ill timing and ill motives.

Public animosity towards the Chinese intensified earlier this month after ABS-CBN’s newsgathering team led by Chiara Zambrano was chased in the West Philippine Sea by Chinese ships with missiles.

As the incident unfolded, the government was also protesting the presence of Chinese ships in Julian Felipe reef, which is located in the disputed waters.

But according to the Babbler, what infuriated ABS-CBN was how Rappler poured gasoline into the anti-Chinese sentiment by linking the West Philippine Sea dispute with CNTV’s launch.

Quoting Horizon’s website, Rappler said CNTV aims to “promote shared Filipino-Chinese culture” and “spread the One Belt One Road advocacy.” What Maria Ressa’s media group conveniently left out, however, was the website had not been updated since 2017, the Babbler said.

ABS-CBN news chief Ging Reyes clarified that CNTV was produced by “fellow Filipinos” from the Filipino-Chinese community and her team would continue to have “full editorial control over their content. ”

Reyes also touched on Rappler’s reporting, which bordered on sinophobia.

“We understand the concerns on Chinese incursions in the West Philippine Sea and many other issues related to the country’s relations with China. ABS-CBN News has vigorously covered these issues, in our pursuit of truth and public enlightenment. But we resist discrimination against any race or ethnicity…it’s time we considered embracing diversity of this we all call home.”

ABS-CBN’s damage control, however, was already too late since Rappler, which the courts found to be in violation of the foreign investments ban in the media, already weaponized the anti-Chinese public sentiment against CNTV’s airing. The newscast was shelved starting April 15.

The Babbler believes Rappler’s motivation for coming out with the unfair and racist report was the threat it felt from ABS-CBN’s rechanneling of resources from free TV to digital.

There’s also the perception that some people at Rappler, which received $1.5 million from American-French billionaire and eBay founder Pierre Omidyar – have an axe to grind against ABS-CBN.

Top of mind is the website’s Filipino-American CEO, Maria Ressa, who used to be ABS-CBN’s news chief before Reyes took over in 2010.

Former Cabinet Secretary Bobi Tiglao claimed that bilyonaryo Gabby Lopez asked Ressa to resign before she got fired “after getting undeniable proof that she was moonlighting, that is, giving interviews for a fee, on Philippine developments with CNN and other US media outfits.”

Not content with causing CNTV’s cancellation, Rappler reporters took to social media to celebrate and extol their new role as a media watchdog.

“They were dancing on ABS-CBN’s grave on Twitter,” the Babbler said.

“What they fail to realize is that because of CNTV’s cancellation, the jobs of hundreds of ABS-CBN employees are hanging in the balance and another round of layoffs is a possibility since there’s no new revenue stream coming in,” the Babbler added.

Rappler claimed the FTW post was deleted “a few seconds” after posting.

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